The Basics of French Architecture

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Building a custom home in a seaside location gives you the ability to design your house however you would like it. You can design a custom home in a classic style. Your house in Australia can feature the best of classic French architecture or neo-classical architecture or Baroque features. An efficient luxury builder can combine many different styles.

French Architecture

French Architecture

French architecture is considered one of the greatest contributions the French have made to the world. In 1671, the Academy of Architecture was founded to codify, teach, and preserve the tenets of French architecture. This institution was the first of its kinds in Europe. In 1720, the Prix de Rome was established. It is a national architecture competition that is funded by the government. Architects pursue this honour very intensely.

The first and most significant achievement of the French architects was the Gothic style.


Gothic architecture was created and flourished during the late medieval period. Romanesque architecture evolved into the Gothic style in France around the twelfth century. It lasted until the sixteenth century. During the period, it was known as Opus Francigenum which means “French work.” The term “Gothic” did not appear until the end of the Renaissance.

The style is typified by flying buttresses, pointed arches and ribbed vaults. It is most well known as the style used in many guildhalls, universities, town halls, palaces, and cathedrals of Europe. The style is not quite as popular in private homes. It is most well-known and identifiable in the large cathedrals and churches.

The term “Gothic” actually began as an insult. It was considered pejorative because it referenced the Visigoths. The style was considered barbaric because the Goths destroyed many buildings in ancient Rome. They then built new buildings that were somewhat similar to the later Gothic style.


Neoclassicism in France is sometimes called the Louis XVI style. The neoclassical style associated with France started out as style in Paris for interiors. Unlike other styles, it did not begin as a court style. It spread from Paris when Marie Antoinette brought the Louis XVI style to court.

Second Empire

The second empire refers to the middle of the 19th century when the second empire was established by Napoleon III. This is the era when Parisian buildings were rebuilt to be very tall. Homes and buildings were embellished with wrought iron crests along roofs and paired columns. The mansard roof is a very distinct feature of this era as well. Mansard roofs are trapezoidal in shape. They are unlike gable roofs with are triangular. The trapezoidal shape creates much more attic space. In certain parts of the world, Second Empire French Architecture is actually a Victorian style since it did not become popular until late in the 19th century.

The mansard roof is probably the feature that most people associate with the Second Empire style. It is also the feature that is most common on residential homes to this day. It is practical and attractive to create a less sloped roof.

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